The draws for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, with Cameroon as hosts, will take place in the country’s capital, Yaounde, on Tuesday, August 17.
The competition was initially scheduled to take place in January and February this year, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted the football calendar last year.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles are one of the 24 teams that have qualified for the biennial competition after finishing top of their qualifying group that had Benin, Lesotho and Sierra Leone.
The Super Eagles have won the competition three times and will be gunning for their fourth crown next year as they are one of the favourites to go all the way in Cameroon.
Gernot Rohr’s men are one of the top seeds ahead of the draws and have been placed in pot one alongside hosts Cameroon.
Despite falling seven places in the latest FIFA rankings, the Super Eagles still managed to keep their spot as a top seed, which on paper, should give them an easy draw.
The number one ranked team, Senegal, defending champions Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, are the other top-seeded teams.
Teams in pot A should have no problem navigating through the group stages, but Nigeria could still get a difficult draw.
As a result, Soccernet takes a look at the worst-case and best-case scenarios for the Super Eagles. It should be noted the latest FIFA rankings were used in determining the draws.
Pot 1: Cameroon, Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria
Pot 2: Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea
Pot 3: Cape Verde, Gabon, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Guinea-Bissau
Pot 4: Malawi, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Ethiopia, Gambia
Looking at the teams in pot two, the Super Eagles will hope to avoid Egypt, Ghana and Ivory Coast, who are all former champions and have quality players.
Egypt are seven-time African champions and have Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah as their talisman. The Black Stars of Ghana are four-time African champions and Nigeria’s arch-rivals.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast are two-time champions and have several talented players like Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha and Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe.
Other teams in pot two include Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. The Super Eagles should have no problem in beating any of the three sides.
In pot three, Rohr’s men could come up against Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s Gabon or Cape Verde, who are also in their group for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
The Blue Sharks of Cape Verde are the team to avoid in pot three based on FIFA rankings. Gabon with Aubameyang could also be tricky.
Sierra Leone, who the Super Eagles failed to beat in two legs during qualifying, could be an exciting opponent, while Zimbabwe and Guinea-Bissau are also potential rivals from pot three.
None of the teams in pot four should pose a problem for Nigeria, but The Scorpions of Gambia with Musa Barrow are the team to avoid.
The worst-case scenario for the Super Eagles: Nigeria, Egypt/Ghana/Ivory Coast, Gabon/Cape Verde, Gambia.
The best-case scenario for the Super Eagles: Nigeria, Burkina Faso/Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Comoros.
Regardless of where they end up, the Super Eagles should have no problem qualifying as one of the top two teams in each group or one of the best four third-place teams.